IFAF Rule 1 – The Game, Field, Players and Equipment

SECTION 4. Players and Playing Equipment

ARTICLE 1. Recommended Numbering

It is strongly recommended that offensive players be numbered according to the following diagram that shows one of many offensive formations:

ARTICLE 2. Players’ Numbering

    1. All players shall be numbered 1 through 99. Any number preceded by zero (“0”) is illegal.
    2. No two players of the same team shall participate in the same down wearing identical numbers.
    3. Markings in the vicinity of the numbers are not permitted.

PENALTY – [a-c] Live-ball foul. Five yards from the previous spot [S23].

    1. When a player enters the game after changing his jersey number, he must report to the referee, who then informs the opposing head coach and announces the change. A player who enters the game after changing his number and does not report commits a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct [S27]. (A.R. 1-4-2:I)

PENALTY – [d] Live-ball foul, unsportsmanlike conduct charged to the team. 15 yards from the previous spot [S27]. Flagrant offenders shall be disqualified [S47].

Approved ruling 1-4-2

  1. The Team A player who started the game wearing jersey number 77 enters the game wearing number 88.
    RULING: The player must report to the Referee who, without stopping the game or play clock, uses his microphone to announce the change and the relevant flank official informs the opposing head coach. If A88 fails to report it is a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. [Cited by 1-4-2-d]

ARTICLE 3. Mandatory equipment

All players must wear the following mandatory equipment:

  1. Helmet.
  2. Hip pads.
  3. Jersey.
  4. Knee pads.
  5. Mouthpiece.
  6. Pants.
  7. Shoulder pads.
  8. Socks.
  9. Thigh guards.

ARTICLE 4. Specifications: Mandatory Equipment

  1. Helmets.
    1. The helmet must be fitted with a facemask and a secured four- or six-point chin strap, all points of which must be secured whenever the ball is in play.
    2. Helmets for all players of a team must be of the same colour and design.
    3. Helmets must carry a warning label regarding the risk of injury and a manufacturer’s or reconditioner’s certification indicating satisfaction of National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) test standards. Reconditioned helmets shall show recertification to indicate satisfaction with the NOCSAE test standard.
  2. Hip pads.
    Hip pads must include a tailbone protector.
  3. Jersey.
    See Rule 1-4-5.
  4. Knee pads.
    Knee pads must be at least ½-inch thick and must be covered by pants. Furthermore, the pants and knee pads must cover the knees. No pads or protective equipment may be worn outside the pants.
  5. Mouthpiece.
    The mouthpiece must be an intra-oral device of any readily visible colour. It must not be white or transparent. It must be made with FDA-approved base materials (FDCS) and cover all upper teeth. It is recommended that the mouthpiece be properly fitted.
  6. Pants.
    Players of a team must wear pants of the same colour and design.
  7. Shoulder pads.
    There are no specifications for shoulder pads. (See Appendix E.)
  8. Socks.
    Players of a team must wear socks or leg coverings that are identical in colour and design.
    (Exception: Unaltered knee braces, tape or a bandage to protect or prevent an injury, and barefoot kickers)
  9. Thigh guards.
    There are no specifications for thigh guards. (See Appendix E.)

Approved ruling 1-4-4

  1. A player or players of a team wear(s) tights (with stirrups) that cover their legs.
    RULING: Legal. All other squad members of this team also must wear tights or knee-length socks of the same colour.
    All squad members of a team must wear socks or leg coverings that are identical in colour and design.
    All squad members of a team may wear short socks of the same colour and design.

ARTICLE 5. Jersey Design, Colour and Numerals

  1. Design
    1. The jersey must have sleeves that completely cover the shoulder pads. It must not be altered or designed to tear. The jersey must be full-length and tucked into the pants or made even with the waist line. It must cover all pads worn at or above the waist. Vests and/or a second jersey worn concurrently during the game are prohibited.
    2. Other than the player’s numbers, the jersey may only contain:
      • Player’s name;
      • Team name;
      • Mascot name;
      • Sleeve stripes;
      • Logo for team, competition mascot, game memorial, or the military;
      • Authorised advertising material; or
      • The team’s national flag.
    3. Any item in paragraph 2 must not exceed 16 square inches in area (i.e. rectangle, square, parallelogram), including any additional material (e.g. patch).
    4. A border around the collar and cuffs not more than 1 inch wide is permissible, as is a maximum 4-inch stripe along the side seam (insert from the underarm to pants top).
    5. Jerseys may not be taped or tied in any manner.
  2. Colour.
      1. Players of opposing teams shall wear jerseys of contrasting colours. Players on the same team shall wear jerseys of the same colour and design.
      2. The visiting team shall wear white jerseys; however, the home team may wear white jerseys if the teams have agreed in writing before the start of the competition.
      3. If the home team wears coloured jerseys, the visiting team may also wear coloured jerseys, if and only if the following conditions have been satisfied:
        1. The home team has agreed in writing prior to the game; and
        2. The competition authority certifies that the jersey of the visiting team is of a contrasting colour.
      4. If on the kickoff at the start of each half the visiting team wears a coloured jersey in violation of the conditions specified in Rule 1-4-5-b-3 (above), it is a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.

    PENALTY – Administer as a dead-ball foul. 15 yards at the succeeding spot following the kickoff. If the kickoff is returned for a touchdown, the penalty is assessed either on the try or on the succeeding kickoff, at the option of the home team. [S27] (A.R. 1-4-7:III)

    1. If a coloured jersey contains white, it may appear only as any of the items listed in paragraph a-2 above.
  3. Numerals.
      1. The jersey must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively. The number must be of a colour that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the colour of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number.
      2. Teams wearing jerseys/numerals that do not conform to this rule will be asked to change into legal jerseys before the game and before the start of each quarter until the jerseys are changed.

    PENALTY – Officials shall charge a team timeout (or a delay penalty if all timeouts have been used) at the start of each quarter the illegal jerseys are worn.(A.R. 1-4-5:I)

    1. All players of a team shall have the same colour and style numbers front and back. The individual bars must be approximately 1½ inches wide. Numbers on any part of the uniform shall correspond with the mandatory front and back jersey numbers.

Approved ruling 1-4-5

  1. The home team is wearing red jerseys with orange numerals. In the judgment of the officials, the numerals and the body of the jersey do not contrast enough to make the numbers readily visible. The referee asks the home team head coach to change to a legal jersey. The head coach tells the referee that his team will not change into different jerseys. The referee informs the head coach that his team will be charged a timeout at the beginning of each quarter that the illegal jerseys are worn.
    RULING: After the ball is declared ready for play for the opening kickoff, the referee charges the home team with a timeout for illegal equipment. For each quarter that they continue to wear the jerseys, the team is charged with a timeout after the ball is declared ready for play and before the ball is put in play for the first play of that quarter. [Cited by 1-4-5 Penalty]

ARTICLE 6. Optional equipment

The following items are legal:

  1. Towels and hand warmers.
    1. Solid colour towels no smaller than 4 inches by 12 inches and no larger than 6 inches by 12 inches with no words, symbols, letters, or numbers. Towels may bear the team logo. They may also contain a single manufacturer’s or distributor’s normal label or trademark not to exceed 2-¼ square inches in area. Towels that are not a solid colour are not permitted.
    2. Hand warmers worn during inclement weather.
  2. Gloves.
    1. A glove is a fitted covering for a hand having separate sections for each finger and thumb, without any additional material that connects any of the fingers and/or thumb, and that completely covers each finger and thumb. There is no restriction on the colour of gloves.
    2. Gloves should have a securely attached label or stamp (“NF/NCAA Specifications”) indicating voluntary compliance with appropriate test specifications on file with the Sports and Fitness Industry Association unless made of unaltered plain cloth.
  3. Eye shields.
    Eye shields must be clear, not tinted, and made from moulded or rigid material. Eyeglasses and goggles also must be clear and not tinted. No medical exceptions are allowed.
  4. Insignia.
    1. Persons or events may be memorialised by an insignia with an area not greater than 2.25 square inches on the uniform or helmet.
    2. Team/national decals and advertising are allowed on helmets
  5. Eye shade.
    Any shading under a player’s eyes must be solid black with no words, numbers, logos or other symbols.
  6. Game information.
    Any player may have written game information on the wrist or arm.

ARTICLE 7. Illegal equipment

Illegal equipment includes the following (see Appendix E for additional details):

  1. Equipment worn by a player that could endanger other players.
  2. Tape or any bandage other than that used to protect an injury, subject to the approval of the umpire.
  3. Hard, abrasive or unyielding equipment that is not completely covered and padded, subject to the approval of the umpire.
  4. Cleats that extend more than ½ inch from the base of the shoe (See Appendix E for full specifications). (Rule 9-2-2-d)
  5. Any equipment that could confuse or deceive an opponent.
  6. Any equipment that could provide an unfair advantage to any player.
  7. Adhesive material, paint, grease or any other slippery substance applied to equipment or on a player’s person, clothing or attachment
    (Exception: Eye shade (Rule 1-4-6-e)).
  8. Uniform attachments other than towels (Rule 1-4-6-a).
  9. Rib pads, shoulder pad attachments and back protectors that are not totally covered. (A.R. 1-4-7:II)
  10. Visible bandannas worn on the field outside the team area. (A.R. 1-4-7:I)
  11. Jerseys that do not conform with Rule 1-4-5.
  12. Non-standard overbuilt facemask. (A.R. 1-4-7:IV) (See Appendix E for examples.)
  13. Equipment that has been modified in a way that reduces the protection of the player wearing it.

Approved ruling 1-4-7

  1. A33 is wearing a bandanna under his helmet, with part of the bandanna protruding from underneath the back of the helmet.
    RULING: Illegal equipment. Bandannas may be worn under the helmet as long as no part of the bandanna is visible when the helmet is in place. The visible bandanna is considered a uniform attachment ( 1-4-7-h). A33 must leave the game for at least one down and may not return until the bandanna is removed or completely hidden under the helmet. Team A may request a team timeout, if one is available, to prevent A33 from missing a down, but the bandanna must be hidden or removed. [Cited by 1-4-7-j]
  2. At the end of a down, B55’s shoulder pad has become exposed and is not covered by the jersey.
    RULING: Illegal equipment. Because the pad became exposed through play, B55 is not required to leave the game. The pad must be covered by the jersey before the ball is next put into play. [Cited by 1-4-7-i, 1-4-8-c]
  3. Both teams come onto the field before the game wearing coloured jerseys. The visiting team has not obtained written agreement from the home team to wear other than white jerseys, or if such agreement has been obtained the competition authority has not certified that the jerseys are of contrasting colours.
    RULING: Foul by the visiting team for violation of the jersey-colour rule. A 15-yard penalty will be assessed at the succeeding spot after the ball is dead following the opening kickoff of each half. If the opening kickoff of a half is returned for a touchdown, the 15-yard penalty is assessed either on the try or the kickoff ( 1-4-5-b). [Cited by 1-4-5 Penalty]
  4. As Team A is about to break its huddle, the Referee notices that A35 is wearing an overbuilt facemask.
    RULING: A35 must leave the game for one down to get a legal facemask. Team A may use an available charged timeout in order that A35 not miss a down, but he may not play with the illegal facemask. [Cited by 1-4-7-l]

ARTICLE 8. Mandatory and Illegal Equipment Enforcement

  1. No player wearing illegal equipment or failing to wear mandatory equipment shall be permitted to play.
    (Exception:Rule 1-4-5-c).
  2. If an official discovers illegal equipment, or if a player is not wearing mandatory equipment, the player must leave the game for at least one down and is not allowed to return until the equipment is made legal. The player may be allowed to return without missing a down if the team takes a charged team timeout, but in any event he may not play with illegal equipment or without mandatory equipment.
  3. If equipment becomes illegal through play, the player is not required to leave the game for one down, but he may not participate until the equipment is made legal. (A.R. 1-4-7:II)

Approved ruling 1-4-8

  1. After the ball is ready for play, an official identifies a player(s) who is obviously not wearing a mouthpiece.
    RULING: The player(s) must leave the game for at least one down and may not return until properly equipped with a mouthpiece. The player(s) may remain in the game by spending an available team timeout, but they may not play until properly equipped.
  2. Late in the first half, Team B has used its three timeouts. At the end of a play the Line Judge notices that B44, a player who participated in the previous play, is equipped with an eye shield that is either tinted or not clear.
    RULING: Equipment violation. B44 must leave the game for at least one down and may not return if he is wearing an illegal eye shield.
  3. When the ball is dead after a scrimmage down, the Umpire notices that linebacker B55 has an exposed back pad at waist level, which apparently became exposed through play during the previous down.
    RULING: B55 is not required to leave the game, but be must cover the exposed pad with his jersey before the next down.

ARTICLE 9. Coaches’ Certification

The head coach or his designated representative shall certify in writing to the umpire before the game that all players:

  1. Have been informed what equipment is mandatory by rule and what constitutes illegal equipment.
  2. Have been provided with the equipment mandated by rule.
  3. Have been instructed to wear and how to wear mandatory equipment during the game.
  4. Have been instructed to notify the coaching staff when equipment becomes illegal through play during the game.

ARTICLE 10.Prohibited Signal Devices

Players may not be equipped with any electronic, mechanical or other signal devices for the purpose of communicating with any source
1. A medically prescribed hearing aid of the sound-amplifier type for hearing-impaired players.
2. A device for transmission or reception of data specifically and only for the purposes of health and safety.)

PENALTY – Administer as a dead-ball foul, 15 yards at the succeeding spot. Player is disqualified. [S7, S27, S47].

ARTICLE 11. Prohibited Field Equipment

Jurisdiction regarding the presence and location of communication equipment (cameras, sound devices, etc.) within the playing enclosure resides with game management personnel.

    1. Motion pictures, any type of film, facsimile machines, videotapes, photographs, writing-transmission machines and computers may be used by coaches or for coaching purposes any time during the game or between periods.
      1. Game management is responsible for assuring identical television capability and identical video and Internet connectivity in the team area and in the coaches’ booths of both teams.
      2. Teams are responsible for their own computers or other coaching equipment.
    2. Only voice communication between the press box and team area is permitted. Where press-box space is not adequate, only voice communication may originate from any area in the stands between the 25-yard lines extended to the top of the stadium. No other communication for coaching purposes is permitted anywhere else, including the use of any communication equipment (e.g. mobile phones or radios) for voice, text, image or any other type of message from inside or outside the playing enclosure by or to any person subject to the rules.
    3. Media communication equipment, including cameras, sound devices, computers and microphones, is prohibited on or above the field, or in or above the team area (Rule 2-31-1).


    1. Camera equipment attached to a goal support behind the uprights and crossbar.
    2. Camera(s) embedded in any pylon.
    3. A camera, with no audio component, may be attached to the cap of any official with prior approval of the official and the participating teams.
      NOTE: Cameras worn by officials solely for the purposes of officiating development may be worn by any official without requiring the permission of the participating teams.
    4. A camera, with no audio component, may be attached to cables that extend over the team area and field of play, including the end zones.
    5. A team videographer may be in the team area as one of that team’s 25 credentialed individuals.
  1. Microphones attached to coaches during the game for media transmission are prohibited.
  2. No one in the team area or coaching box may use any artificial sound amplification to communicate with players on the field.
  3. Any attempt to record, either through audio or video means, any signals given by an opposing player, coach or other team personnel is prohibited.
  4. No drones (unmanned aerial vehicle) may be used inside the playing enclosure. If a drone violates this space, the Referee shall order the game stopped until such time as the drone is removed from the space.

ARTICLE 12. Coaches’ Phones

Coaches’ phones and headsets are not subject to the rules before or during the game.

ARTICLE 13. Referee microphone

A microphone is strongly recommended for the referee to be used for all game announcements. It is strongly recommended that it be a lapel-type microphone. The microphone must be controlled by the referee. It may not be open at other times. Officials’ radio communication systems are not subject to the rules before or during the game.
(Exception: A system that interferes with a media broadcast is not permitted.